Low Carb Diets Explained

Low Carb Diets Explained

Low carb diets as you can imagine put a restriction on the amount of carbs you eat in a day. Instead, they emphasize eating foods higher in fat and protein. There are many types of low carb diets available for you follow today; each varying in the amount and type of carbs you can eat.

Why follow this type of diet?

A low carb diet is intended to help people lose weight while also helping with diseases such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.


Diet Details:low carb diets fod pyramid

The typical low carb diet does not have a fixed definition. In general, a low carb diet focuses on proteins, including meat, poultry, fish and eggs, and some non-starchy vegetables. A low carb diet generally excludes or limits most grains, legumes, fruits, breads, sweets, pastas and starchy vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds. Some low carb diet plans allow small amounts of certain fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A daily limit of 0.7 to 2 ounces (20 to 60 grams) of carbohydrates is typical with a low carb diet. These amounts of carbohydrates provide 80 to 240 calories. Some low carb diets greatly restrict carbs during the initial phase of the diet and then gradually increase the number of allowed carbs.

The different diets

As previously stated there a couple of different types of diets you can follow. Below are some of the popular low carb diets:

General low carb diet :

The recommended carb intake per day generally depends on the person’s goals and preferences, but here is a popular guideline:

  • 100–150 grams: Weight maintenance or frequent high-intensity exercise. There’s room for plenty of fruit and even some starchy foods like potatoes.
  • 50–100 grams: Slow and steady weight loss or weight maintenance. There’s room for plenty of vegetables and fruit.
  • Under 50 grams: Faster weight loss. Eat plenty of vegetables, but limit fruit intake to low-GI berries.

The ketogenic diet:

low carb diets diagram

The goal of a ketogenic diet is to keep carbs so low that the body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis. When carb intake is very low, insulin levels go way down and the body releases large amounts of fatty acids from its body fat stores. A ketogenic diet involves high-protein, high-fat foods. Carbs are generally limited to less than 50 grams per day, and sometimes to less than 20–30 grams.


LCHF stands for “low carb, high fat.” This is a fairly standard very low carb diet, except an even greater emphasis is put on eating whole, unprocessed foods. It focuses mostly on meats, fish and shellfish, eggs, healthy fats, vegetables, dairy products, nuts and berries. The recommended carb intake on this diet can range from under 20 grams per day, to under 100 grams per day.

The paleo diet:

A paleo diet is not low carb by definition, but in practice it tends to be fairly low in carbs. It involves eating meats, fish, seafoods, eggs, vegetables, fruits, tubers, nuts and seeds. A strict paleo diet eliminates processed foods, added sugar, grains, legumes and dairy products.

The Atkins diet:

This diet involves reducing all high carb foods, while eating as much protein and fat as desired.

The diet is split into 4 phases:

  • 1 — Induction: Eat under 20 grams of carbs per day for 2 weeks.
  • 2 — Balancing: Slowly add more nuts, low-carb vegetables and fruits to your diet.
  • 3 — Fine-tuning: When you get close to your goal weight, add more carbs until weight loss becomes slower.
  • 4 — Maintenance: Eat as many healthy carbs as your body tolerates without gaining back the weight you lost.

Zero carb diet:

People who follow a zero carb diet eat meat, fish, eggs and animal fats like butter and lard.  There are no recent studies that show a zero carb diet to be safe. A zero carb diet is lacking in some important nutrients, such as vitamin C and fiber.

The Mediterranean diet:

A low carb Mediterranean diet is basically like a Mediterranean diet, except that it limits higher carb foods like whole grains. It is similar to a regular low carb diet, except that it emphasizes more fatty fish instead of red meat, and more extra virgin olive oil instead of fats like butter.

What to consider?

Low carb diets may help prevent or improve serious health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. However, if you suddenly and drastically cut carbs, you may experience a variety of temporary health effects, including:

  • Headache
  • Bad breath
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Also, some diets restrict carbohydrate intake so much that in the long term they can result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies, bone loss and gastrointestinal disturbances and may increase risks of various chronic diseases. Severely restricting carbohydrates to less than 0.7 ounces (20 grams) a day can result in a process called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when you don’t have enough sugar (glucose) for energy, so your body breaks down stored fat, causing ketones to build up in your body. Side effects from ketosis can include nausea, headache, mental and physical fatigue, and bad breath. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calorie intake. So if you consume 2,000 calories a day, you would need to eat between 900 and 1,300 calories a day from carbohydrates.